It was painfully obvious that Brendan Rodgers never really rated Mario Balotelli and Rickie Lambert, the two strikers Liverpool signed in 2014 to replace Luis Suarez (but also the perpetually injured Daniel Sturridge).
And over the weekend he practically admitted the fact during his appearance on Sky Sports.
Our former manager spoke well and in length about his time at the club and what went wrong to transform us from title contenders in 2013/14 to also-rans the season after.
Rodgers claimed he was banking on Liverpool signing Alexis Sanchez – a player who suited his style perfectly – but ended up with Balotelli being forced upon him by the board.
“It’s difficult because you want a player in but if the player is not on the list, you’d have to take someone,” he told Goals on Sunday.
“We needed a player who could press at the top of the pitch; it wasn’t just a goalscorer we were after because Luis Suarez was giving us so much more than that. After a friendly against AC Milan, I was asked the question and I felt Mario wasn’t someone who suited the profile of what we were after. But come the end of the summer when we were struggling to get in the type of player we wanted, the ownership thought this was perhaps a player I could develop. He’s a wonderful talent, there’s no doubt about that; you see him on the training ground every day – tall, strong, great touch. They were thinking this is a £50m player we could maybe get for £16m. When the owners are wanting you to go down that route and there’s no other option, you give it a go.”
Rodgers’ next quotes patronise Lambert somewhat, but in fairness, you cannot argue with them.
“The huge blow was that we thought we were getting Alexis Sanchez and that he’d be a like-for-like replacement in terms of how he pressed the game, his aggression. We thought he’d be perfect, it’d be a smooth transition and Rickie Lambert would come in and be an option if we needed something else in the game. But we didn’t get Alexis Sanchez and, bless Rickie, there was a lot of pressure on him when really that wasn’t the plan. So we had to bring in someone, Mario has big talent – I wasn’t thinking I’d be any different in terms of managers who’ve had issues with him – and at that moment, we didn’t really have another option. It was something that didn’t quite work for us and it cost us.”
During their one season at Anfield, Balotelli and Lambert contributed a measly seven goals between them. The Italian went back on loan to Serie A and the ageing Englishman departed to West Brom – confirming the enormous error in signing the duo originally.
Sanchez went to Arsenal of course and has gone on to assert himself as one of the best players in Europe and arguably the world – just as Suarez has done at Barcelona nonstop since leaving Liverpool.
What could have been!